Marijuana Use Raises Risk of Stroke, Heart Attack and Heart Failure, American Heart Association Says

The AHA released two new studies on Monday that found that daily marijuana use can impact both brain and heart health

<p>Christopher Furlong/Getty </p> A cannabis plant

Christopher Furlong/Getty

A cannabis plant

Two new studies from the American Heart Association reveal that regular use of recreational marijuana can have negative impacts on the heart and the brain.

On Monday, AHA presented two unpublished studies at the 2023 Scientific Sessions event in Philadelphia which found that regular users of marijuana are at a higher risk of both heart attack and stroke when hospitalized, and that those who use marijuana daily were 34% more likely to develop heart failure, according to a press release.

The second study found that older people with any combination of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol who used marijuana “significantly increased their risk for a major acute heart or brain event while hospitalized, compared to those who reported not using marijuana."

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“Prior research shows links between marijuana use and cardiovascular diseases like coronary artery disease, heart failure and atrial fibrillation, which is known to cause heart failure,” said lead study author Yakubu Bene-Alhasan, M.D., M.P.H., a resident physician at Medstar Health in Baltimore.

<p> Leon Neal/AFP via Getty</p> A cannabis plant

Leon Neal/AFP via Getty

A cannabis plant

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The first study followed 156,999 individuals who did not have signs of heart failure when they enrolled in the research program. Those who participated were followed for 45 months (nearly four years).

During the study period, almost 2% of the participants (2,958 people) developed heart failure. Those who used marijuana daily had a 34% increased risk of developing heart failure, compared to those who reported they had never used marijuana. The study explained that the participants’ risk was not impacted by their age, sex at birth or smoking history.

Additionally, when coronary artery disease was added to the investigation, the risk of heart failure dropped from 34% to 27%, suggesting that "coronary artery disease is a pathway through which daily marijuana use may lead to heart failure."

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The second study examined 28,535 marijuana users with existing cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol. The data was taken from the 2019 National Inpatient Sample and focused on the records of adults older than age 65 with cardiovascular risk factors who reported no tobacco use.

The results found that 20% (approximately 5,710 participants) had an increased chance of experiencing a major brain or heart “event” while hospitalized. An additional 13.9% (approximately 3,970 participants) with cardiovascular risk factors had a “major adverse heart and brain event while hospitalized."

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Those with cardiovascular risk factors and daily marijuana use had a higher rate of heart attacks — 7.6% versus 6%, respectively. High blood pressure (which is defined as any number greater than 130/80 mm Hg) and high cholesterol were predictors of major adverse heart and brain events in marijuana users.

Lead study author Avilash Mondal, M.D., a resident physician at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia explained, “What is unique about our study is that patients who were using tobacco were excluded because cannabis and tobacco are sometimes used together, therefore, we were able to specifically examine cannabis use and cardiovascular outcomes.”

In addition to the AHA studies, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2023 study also found that daily marijuana use can raise a person’s risk of coronary artery disease by one-third, compared to those who do not use marijuana.

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